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ISSUE # 6 page 3 June 1997
The Father of Modern Reef Keeping: Lee Chin Eng
In keeping with the theme of Mother's Day that I used for last month's article, I figured that I should give equal time to father's day this month. I thought this would be a good time to pay tribute to the father of modern reef keeping.
People had kept natural reef aquariums of sorts before Lee Chin Eng's time. But, things didnt really start to happen on a widespread and duplicable scale until he published his work on the natural method of reef keeping in 1961- a very fine year.
Why should you know who Mr Eng is? This short article will answer that question. I'm sure you've heard his name before - and no doubt heard it pronounced in several different ways.
I had the privilege last year to interview Merrill Cohen of Aquarium Products, a friend and business associate of the late great Lee Chin Eng. Merrill traveled to Singapore to meet Mr Eng. He introduced Mr Eng's natural method of salt water aquarium keeping to North America at an APPMA show in the early 1960's. He also imported live rock from Eng. The live rocks were cured in tide pools to let some items die off that were not as prone to survive shipping and reef aquarium living. Merrill says that Mr Eng pronounced his last name: "ang" as in tang.
Merrill Cohen described Lee Chin Eng as follows. He was a witty and jovial guy, fun to be around, always upbeat and "talking fish." He kept large tanks that he maintained for hotels in their open lobbies. The tanks were not heated or cooled, nor did they have artificial light. Natural light was all they needed to thrive. The tanks had only a few fish in them. Mr Eng liked to feed the fish to keep them plump, healthy and happy. He maintained that "A skinny fish is a dead fish." So much for our tendencies to starve the fish in our modern reef tanks to keep nutrients low.
1 POWERHEAD AND 1 TRITON LIGHT
IT GROWS VERY GOOD CORALLINE ALGAE
Yes, it can be done with the right balance. Lee Chin Eng found that curing the rock before using them made the aquariums more successful. This made the water less likely to become fouled. Even though he lived by the ocean, water changes were not a priority. He was an energetic and enthusiastic business man with a maintenance business who also exported limited live stock which included live rock.
Before moving to Singapore, he worked on perfecting his natural system in the late 1950's and early 1960's in Bali. The popular trend of the 1950's in many areas was that salt water aquariums had to be STERILE in order to succeed! Bacteria was thought to be a culprit, the cause of tank failures. Many salt water aquarists took apart and sterilized their tanks every month or two in order to kill "harmful bacteria." Freshwater aquariums at the time could be kept very well using the "natural style." Natural style salt water aquariums were thought by most to be an impossibility.
No wonder the Eng system (once perfected) became such a novel idea and a real hit with many aquarists. It had bacteria, live algae, worms, other micro-fauna and plankton to make a natural and balanced eco-system in a container at home.
The keyword is BALANCE! The cured rock and sand really did the trick. We understand why his natural system works the way it does much better today than many people did in the 1960's. Today we can more easily avoid some of the pitfalls that "help" a natural system fail.
We know that the balanced reef aquarium needs a good variety of small life in the sand and live rock. GARF's Grunge live sand booster is a great source for this wide variety of micro-critters. Another important improvement is CaribSea aragonite sand which has proven to help the calcium level, pH and alkalinity stay higher in today's natural reefs.
We can now set up Lee Chin Eng style natural systems with more success than Eng's followers could in the 60's and 70's. Some of them failed miserably and went on to search for other methods. Some people liked the basic Eng style reef but thought that it could be improved upon.
It seems that the really good systems of today are spin-offs of the Lee Chin Eng natural style reef system. The best systems tend to have live sand and live rock which give them a natural balance you just can't get elsewhere. The live sand layer has thickened up considerably in many cases.
Some of the great systems that have evolved from the Eng method are:
Two notable but very simple systems have evolved (or de-evolved) from the just mentioned systems. They are the super simple
What a nice refreshing switch backwards, closer to the original Eng system in a way.
Details on setting up a bullet proof reef can be found on this web site. Details on setting up a HANDY Reef can be found at http://www.handycoralreef.com. They are both money saving ways to "soup up" or improve on the Eng method just a bit. Of course they both use artificial lighting in most cases which most commonly consists of Triton and Blue Moon Reef flourescents marketed by none other than Merrill Cohen of Aquarium Products.
It is simple yet fantastic lighting to say the least. If you haven't tried these lights yet, you owe it to your self and the critters you keep to try them on your next simple reef system for propagating corals. The coloration difference alone is worth it! Make it a HANDY Reef or a Bullet Proof Reef.
I often shut down the protein skimmer and let the reef glide under the power of nature, very close to the original Lee Chin Eng method.
I've been running a one-gallon Lee Chin Eng reef for about 7 months now and am very happy with how nice it works with an air pump and natural light. It is set up in front of thin white curtains to provide light.
While celebrating father's day, remember why your reef aquarium runs so well.
Thanks to Lee Chin Eng, many methods of reef aquarium set-up have benefitted to a great extent.
XENIA GROWING FOR THE LOCAL MARKET
SOME NEW METHODS FOR PROPAGATING XENIA CORAL
THESE XENIA CAN BE DELIVERED TO LOCAL STORES
We have been preparing the xenia for transport by stressing them several times and then washing the slime off of them in clean reef water.
This is our method of preparing Xenia for transport.
1. We mount the rock or plug on a piece of styrofoam so it can be floated upside down.
Xenia sp.Most of the Xenia that have in the unconnected genetic bank have large polyps with pinnated tentacles that move in a rhythmic motion. These polyps are connected at the base. The colors we have are cream, biege, and light brown. We have just received a new colony from Bali that is cream with brown edges on the polyps. This Xenia is growing very fast. It is the finest looking pulse coral I have ever seen!
THIS IS THE BALI XENIA
We have been able to propagate this Xenia by cutting off one polyp and placing it on a reef plug under a piece of fine netting. The best way to remove one polyp is to suck the polyp up into a air line tube and snip it off with a pair of scissors. The embossed type of fine bridal veil has worked very well for this type of production. We hold the netting in place with a rubber band.